By Cliff Kindy, Brethren Disaster Ministries volunteer reporting from Nigeria
Maiduguri is the capital city of Borno State. It is home to about 2 million residents. It has the distinction of being known as the birthplace of Boko Haram. It is also home to many churches that belong to EYN (Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). The largest Maiduguri congregation attracts up to five thousand people for Sunday worship. Over the last few weeks the Islamic militant group, Boko Haram, has attacked numerous villages and towns in the far northeast section of Borno State, including Baga and most recently Maiduguri itself.
There had been a local EYN congregation in Baga at the time of the destruction of the city that made international news recently. There were many other EYN congregations and preaching points in the area stretching from Baga down to Maiduguri. Those congregations have been in harm’s way as Boko Haram has raided and burned many of these small communities. Refugees fleeing the violence have escaped into Chad, Niger and Cameroon for safety. Many have also fled into the fortified city of Maiduguri.
EYN has a well-coordinated response to the crisis within the city. There are three Christian IDP camps within the city limits and six Muslim IDP camps. Most of the Christians, however, are staying with families and friends, with as many as fifty to seventy people in some of the homes. Though not all the displaced are registered, today (Saturday, 1/24) there was a total of 45,858 Christian IDPs registered in the city and there are probably close to a similar number of Muslims in the six camps. That number has increased nearly threefold from before Christmas and is growing rapidly each day. Federal and state governments have been providing assistance to the IDP camps and the organization of the Christian community has seemed to cover those IDPs staying with families who are missed by the government distributions.
Security within the city is very tight. Persons going to markets or churches are closely screened. Metal detecting wands scan each person at churches before entry. If there is any question people are patted down. No packages are allowed inside the church. A bible is the only thing attendees are allowed to carry with them. The Holy Spirit is the only thing that can pass through security unimpeded. That Spirit seems to be present in abundance as churches are growing under the pressure.
Updates are coming in. Today (Sunday, 1/25) Maiduguri was being attacked by Boko Haram from three directions. In the east they were thirty kilometers away; in the north, 130 kilometers away and the west, ten kilometers away. People inside Maiduguri said it sounded like shooting was coming from all directions. An EYN pastor in Jos has three children in school in Maiduguri and they were the ones that called with the first reports. The city ordered all people to stay indoors so that the military would know who was attacking. The markets were closed. Latest reports are that the military repelled the attacks against Maiduguri but that a city to the north, with Nigerian military barracks, did fall to the attackers. Clearly Boko Haram wants everyone to think they are everywhere and able to attack successfully wherever they choose.
For more information on the Church of the Brethren Nigeria Crisis Response or to donate, visit www.nigeriacrsis.org.